Google fired a warning shot across the world of Internet piracy by threatening legal action against conversion giant YouTube-MP3.org as well as Music-Clips.net and potentially other websites.  As reported by torrentfreak.com, a letter was sent out by Google demanding that the popular websites cease using the YouTube API (Application Programming Interface) to allow users to “separate, isolate, or modify the audio or video components of any YouTube audiovisual content.”  Put simply, Google alleges these websites allow users to download content directly from YouTube for free, and Google wants to stop this practice, claiming that it is a breach of YouTube API’s Terms of Service.

TorrentFreak has also reported that, in addition to the cease and desist letter, Google has blocked YouTube-MP3.org’s servers from accessing YouTube.  YouTube-MP3.org’s owner has responded with a statement to its users in which it claims that the site does not actually utilize the API and that “German [c]ourts have ruled that an online recording tool is not different from any [TV] recorder or something [comparable].”

Converting YouTube content to MP3s and other downloadable content may have become more prominent in recent months considering of the fall of Megaupload in January 2012 (a case we have been following here).  With the file hosting giant now gone, seekers of free media have had to search elsewhere for content.  YouTube conversion websites offer users simple ways to obtain free music and videos without the relative risk that accompanies the use of BitTorrent sites (individuals who have used BitTorrent to download music and movies have been sued in large numbers).  Copyright holders have expressed their frustration with conversion sites, which may be in part a result of the challenge in identifying individuals connected to use of the YouTube conversion sites, particularly when contrasted with the ability by those same copyright holders to trace the identity of torrent users.